Contraindication, pregnancy, and the right to be celibate

There are drugs that are seriously and correctly contraindicated during pregnancy.

Thalidomide is one example.

However, “Contraindicated in women who may become pregnant,” and “Contraindicated in women of childbearing age,” are totally different things.

I was horrified, therefore, to come across government and medical information stating that Valproate medications must not be used in women of childbearing age without compelling reason, and that women must be placed on a pregnancy prevention programme involving the use of reliable contraception – meaning implants, certain types of IUD, contraceptive injections, or sterilisation.

Whether they are sexually active or not.

A woman has the right to choose not to have sex.  That it should still be necessary to state this is outrageous.

The corollary to this is that women who choose not to have sex should be entiled to expect to be given the most appropriate treatment for an illness regardless of its contraindication in pregnancy.

They should also not be expected to damage their health with drugs and devices intended to “medicate” the body against its natural functioning, with a high risk of causing pain and/or other side effects, in order to spare an imaginary and impossible child damage!

In practice, a certain amount of discretion is hinted at in the documents, and it may be that most doctors would in fact respond to the reality of their patient.  My experience of the attitude with screening for sexually transmitted diseases does not in fact suggest the likelihood of this type of respect, and in any case, this does not solve the problem of the fact that the guidance prevents proper consideration of the most effective treatment in the first place. 

That is, if a woman over childbearing age, or a man, presenting in the same way, would be prescribed a medication which is absolutely contraindicated in pregnancy, as the best to treat that illness, but a celibate woman of childbearing age would be offered something likely to be less effective or to have worse side effects merely because she was of childbearing age and therefore not to be given that medication unless there is no other option, a sort of prejudice is operating against these women.  (A prejudice which applies, presumably, not merely to women who are celibate in the strict sense of the word, but also to sexually active lesbians).

Discretion also does not alter the way in which there is an underlying failure in the documents to acknowledge the women for whom the issue isn’t relevant, and in some ways this seems to me to be the most sinister.  Is anyone who chooses not to have sex merely regarded as an unnatural, if not impossible, freak?  Certainly this is the impression I have been left with, growing up with the modern casual attitude to sex and choosing instead the dignity of Christian chastity.

Disempowerment matters.  To treat women as if they have no capacity to decide whether or not to have sex, and as if they have no responsiblity for the consequences of doing so, is to promugate, however unintentionally, one of the most hostile attitudes towards women: that of them existing merely to be sexually used. 

The desire for respect for the disempowered where and as they currently are, is good.  But it is necessary to be careful to make sure it is not being made worse, by the refusal to acknowledge the possibility of things becoming otherwise.

If the medical profession have duly warned us of the dangers to any child we might conceive, and have offered us the help our society thinks it is appropriate to offer not to conceive, it is totally our responsibility if we are not truthful with them. 

I completely agree that a doctor who knows that a woman is sexually active should not give her high risk pregnancy drugs without being clear that she cannot conceive.  That lies within the normal sphere of medical responsibility.  Sex is designed and adapted to bring about conception: assuming that it will do so if the woman is biologically capable of pregnancy is perfectly appropriate!

I also totally agree that if patients are reporting a lack of adequate warning of the dangers of a particular medication in pregnancy, there is a need to alter the system.  I have no objection to receiving pack after pack of medication covered 50% in pregnancy warnings and information about who to contact for help if there is any possibility of becoming pregnant.  If irritating, the underlying message is one of care and assistance, and I have no issue with the fact that if in a minority, generic communications will involve a lot of things that are not relevant. 

That is totally different from the possibility of the existence of a minority to which you belong being completely ignored, and therefore being denied appropriate responses.

I therefore have an objection to the fact that, “Consistently choose not to be sexually active,” is not automatically and clearly listed as a way of avoiding pregnancy in all such documents.

Women have the legal* right to choose how and under what circumstances we do or do not have sex. 

It is an important consequence of that right that guidance for medical treatment should be responsive to a woman’s real choices, and not to an underlying prejudice that any woman of childbearing age is either sexually active or about to become so.

Cherry Foster

 

 

*”Legal,” and “moral” are not at all equivalents here.  What constitutes the good use of freedom, and the appropriateness of the community not interfering with the bad use of it, are different things.  I hold totally to the Christian view that sex is only right within conjugal marriage, but medical practice is rightly non-judgemental.

References:

107995_Valproate_Patient_Booklet_v05_DS_07-01-2021.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Valproate medicines (Epilim▼, Depakote▼): contraindicated in women and girls of childbearing potential unless conditions of Pregnancy Prevention Programme are met – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

 

Respect?

The nine-year old girl hurpled down the school corridor in her bright yellow walking frame, and bashed the large red button to open the door on the school’s one disabled toilet.

She stood for a minute making faces at herself in the mirror, waiting for the door, which had no sensor, to time out and close itself. She scrambled out of her walking frame, and sat down on the toilet, moving as quickly as she could for the sake of getting out of the toilet again fast.

Without any warning, a teaching assistant pressed the button and walked in. Taking no notice of the girl, she walked over to the mirror and started to refresh her make up. Embarrassed, the girl shrank into herself and spread her skirt over her legs, as other kids came past the open door, glancing in and giggling at the sight of her sitting on the toilet with her pants around her ankles.

Eventually the door timed out and shut, and she quickly scrambled up and rearranged her clothing decently. The teaching assistant, concentrating on her mascara, nevertheless moved enough to allow the girl to wash her hands.

“I wish you’d knock, Mrs. Wrendel,” she said timidly, as she pulled her walking frame to the door.

“Really?” said Mrs. Wrendel, with a total lack of interest, peering at a pimple and attacking it with concealer.

The girl knew that, as always, her protest would be totally ignored.

Cherry Foster

Curlyhair and the Three Bears – a logic puzzle

Or, possibly, an illogical puzzle…

Curlyhair has been taken prisoner by the Evil Wizard, and is fleeing from The Castle of Confused Fairytale Characters through his gardens, pursued by his Dread Dragon.

After facing many perils and puzzles, she comes to a neat lawn from which leads three paths, one planted with poppies, one planted with roses, and one planted with daisies.

One path leads to the gate and freedom, while the other two lead to certain death.

To one side of the lawn sits a pretty cottage, and on a bench at the front of it sit the Three Bears, waiting for their porridge to cool.

Curlyhair has not much time to converse with the bears, for they will not wait a moment after their porridge has cooled, and if she waits for them to finish breakfast, she will be caught and eaten by the Evil Wizard’s Dread Dragon.

She reaches into her apron pocket and breaks open the sealed note her Much Too Logical Fairy Godmother has given her to be opened only in her Gravest Need.

It reads: When you meet the Three Bears, be aware: one never tells lies, one never utters a truth, and one speaks only a mixture of truth and lies.

Curlyhair goes up to the Three Bears, and the courteous preambles of humans being considered most discourteous by bears, says,

“Which path leads to freedom?”

Great Bear says, “The daisy path.”

Middle Bear says, “The rose path.”

And Little Bear says, “The poppy path.”

So Curlyhair responds,

“Which of you is lying?”

Great Bear says, “I always tell the truth.”

Middle Bear says, “I was lying.”

Little Bear says, “I never tell the truth.”

And Curlyhair sighs with relief.

 

Which path should Curlyhair take to freedom?

Cherry Foster

Why Christians should talk more about chastity

The Church should not be abandoning its young people to the indignity of a cultural norm of unchastity.

(It should be noted that, though I hold to traditional standards regarding what is ethical with regard to sexual conduct, I also firmly hold the belief that non-violent sexual activity between consenting adults in private is not a matter for the law).

Many years ago, I heard a talk about a priest who founded a mission to seamen in the 19th century*.  He was inclined to be fairly stiff about getting on the nerves of rich ship owners when they did not obey rules about things like how much a ship was allowed to carry or the food the seamen were supposed to be entitled to.

It is said that others at the time pleaded with him to conciliate.  Keep in with these people, don’t offend them, and then they’ll be more likely to be influenced by you.

Possibly.  Certainly that can be true, and we do need to accept that people are where they are, and that any journey has to happen one step at a time.

With most social justice issues, I think it probably would be the general view nowadays – certainly it would be mine – that the church should not keep in with those who grind the faces of the poor for their own profit on the grounds that pushing these people away from the Church is likely to mean we have no influence over them.

However, when it comes to issues of chastity, we use exactly this argument which we reject strongly in matters of social justice: “Don’t offend people, keep in with them, don’t say they are doing something wrong, don’t push them away, because then they will be more likely to listen.”**

Are there really differences between the two issues that make the argument valid in the one case and not in the other?

For one thing, if nothing is said about an issue for fear of offending people, what is it that they are more likely to listen to?

By glossing the matter over all the time, speaking and acting as if the world’s norms of chastity were the same as Christian norms, we are actually encouraging people to close their minds to the force of the scriptural warnings on the subject, by suggesting that we do not take them seriously ourselves.

What seems to me to result, therefore, is that people already acting unchastely are affirmed or encouraged in their sins, rather than helped to find God’s Redemption, and people who are not doing so, are left without light or help or support, to suffer and stumble into wrongdoing or not by pure chance.

Talking about particular things well is always complicated.  There are times and places for talking and not talking about specific things, and it can be a matter of very difficult discernment as to how and what and when to speak.

For instance, I would generally say “Christians should talk about social justice, but the Church should talk about salvation.”  Having said, honesty, integrity, and chastity are all part of salvation, which would mean really, that I am not so much advocating that the Church should not talk about these things, but that it should be relating them much more to their context of salvation than it usually does.  I have heard a lot of sermons on social justice that could pretty much be political speeches.

I should note at this point, that by chastity, I mean the traditional understanding of scriptural chastity, that is, that no sexual activity outside the vowed bond of conjugal marriage is ethical.  Scripture is not ambiguous on this point.  What is the point of being a Christian – indeed, in what manner are we Christians – if we do not trust scripture above our culture?

There are a few genuine complexities: for instance, marriage is not marriage without consent.  However, it is reasonable to suggest these should be limited to truly extreme circumstances: i.e. not consenting is speaking the marriage vows while threatened with a loaded gun, or is where someone has been mentally and emotionally abused for several months prior to giving in.  Lack of consent does not mean having vague mental reservations while speaking the vows – that is a total contradiction of “let your yes be yes and your no be no”!

Considering the time, place, and manner of our speech carefully and prayerfully, however, is not the same as being cowed into actual silence by indignation and criticism.

Christianity, properly speaking, has a basically positive view of morality.  What I mean is that right actions are actually a good, and we gain from doing them.  So abandoning any part of Gospel morality is an abandonment of the fullness of the good that God offers to us.

The situation I found myself in as a young person at university was impossible from the point of view of a person who believes in Christian chastity.

The social norm was sleeping with your boyfriend after quite a short time of being together.  I knew several girls who were openly promiscuous, in the sense that they seemed to be of the type who chose to sleep with random people at parties.  While it might have been acceptable to choose not to have sex because you were disinclined so to do – or you might have been regarded as a complete freak – it was certainly not acceptable to choose not to because you thought it wrong.  I suppose people take that as a judgement on their own choices, and in a sense, it unavoidably is, even if there is no active judgementalism.  And not only was it like this when I was at university, but I grew up in a situation where our school sex education treated promiscuity as the norm – even at an age where sex was actually illegal.  I remember my teacher holding up a diaphragm and commenting “you wouldn’t put the diaphragm in before you have sex.  If you were going to a party you’d put it in before you went”.  I was thirteen when I was forced to sit through that class.

Those of us who don’t want to devalue our bodies in this way desperately need the support of the Church in resisting the culture, and in giving us a map for doing differently.  Not only do we tend to be made to feel like impossible freaks of nature, but we are trying to act so contrary to our social norms that we simply have no practical patterns of conduct to follow.

By this I mean that if it is the social norm for a girl to have sex with her boyfriend between a fortnight and three months into the relationship, totally without any long-term commitment, it’s very difficult to understand what to do if you are trying to act to a completely different standard.  Is it good to kiss your date?  How do you establish your commitment without cohabiting before marriage, when that is how everyone tells you it is done?

Instead of offering us moral and practical support, people in the church talk about how normal it is now for people to come to them to be married after living together, as if that was unquestionably sound.

In fact, I’d make the very radical suggestion that the Christian church probably should not marry people who have “cohabited” before marriage unless it is clear they have thought better of it (there is no guilt in doing what you could not have reasonably be supposed to realise was wrong), that having the choice to make again they would make a different decision.  For otherwise, it is not Christian marriage they are seeking to enter into – the way Christian marriage is defined, it cannot go along with justifying a previous sexual relationship (other than a previous marriage ended by widowhood) – and we only cast confusion on the nature of Christian marriage by going along with it.

Irrespective of that particular question, I think it would be good for the church to regard it as less important to be sensitive to those who don’t want to live the Gospel norms of chastity than to offer moral and practical support to those who do.

Being prepared to stand up for the Gospel standard on this issue, far from being merely insensitive, is an essential part of being faithful to God, and of serving and helping his people and the suffering world.

 Cherry Foster

 

*I am unsure as to the identity of the priest in question, as there are several ongoing church charities doing similar work, none of which say very much about their founders.

**I have also heard it said that we shouldn’t talk on this issue because people have been unduly obsessed with talking about the wrong of homosexual activity while ignoring heterosexual fornication and adultery.  I think it is true that something that has gone wrong here, but it doesn’t seem a logical response to it to advocate shutting up on the subject altogether, instead of correcting the distortion.

Parental right to decide what is in a young child’s best interests is an essential part of the child-parent relationship

This post was written in response to Pippa Knight – Harm Without Awareness | The Transparency Project

My thoughts and prayers are with the family and others involved.

 

I would argue that it is the child’s mother, and not a court, who should be deciding what is in her best interests in the absence of legal abuse or neglect, or a situation where the mother would be judged incompetent in the case of her personal medical decisions.

I agree in the abstract with the medical judgement that further medical interference in such a case would be better avoided (despite a few concerns about the details) which does complicate matters somewhat, but I think that to set the parent/parents or other natural family guardians aside like this is very wrong.

In the middle ages, people truly and genuinely believed that a child’s salvation, their eternal happiness and wellbeing, rested on their being baptised if they died in infancy. Therefore, there was discussion as to whether or not the children of Jewish parents should be forcibly baptised contrary to their parents’ wishes. These people believed that this was seeing the child’s interests through the eyes of the children not those of the parents, who were in error. Aquinas defended the right of the parents to determine the best interests of the children, and thus, what we would now consider their basic human rights.

Neither I or anyone else to whom I have made this argument has been able to come up with any sensible difference between religious and medical good. The only difference is that we now believe that the thinkers of the middle ages were wrong about baptism, and that medics are usually right in their advice as to what is best.

This does not work as a reason why we can justify enforcing our ideas, while they were not justified in enforcing theirs, because neither the medical profession nor our current courts are any more infallible regarding what is in a child’s best interests than the people who thought all children should be baptised regardless of their parents’ wishes. Indeed, John Stuart Mill made it a major point of his liberal principles that to try to enforce certain types of thing by law was to claim infallibility, and therefore obviously illegitmate, as it is an absurd epistemological claim for any human being to make.

It is an essential part of the way in which our multi-cultural society works, that we respect the decisions of parents for their children, unless deliberate abuse or neglect can be demonstrated – which no-one has claimed in this case. The failure of our (UK) law to generally uphold this principle (in matters such as the passing of the children act) is not something in which we can claim to be consistent. (I completely affirm the good motives of everyone involved, however: these are thorny problems, and I do not claim to “like” my conclusions).

A decision to refuse the resources to have Pippa Knight removed home on triaging grounds is entirely different, difficult and tragic though that is, but I think there is a lot of reason to argue that in the case of a young child, “the affirmation of deeply held values or respect for autonomy” is properly transfered to the parent/s not to a legal process. There seems to be a failure to realise that the decision is as much transfered to a third party in a judge being considered entitled to speak for her, as it would be if the wishes of her mother were respected. For others to come between a mother and her young child in this way, claiming to speak for the child against the mother for no particularly coherent reason other than that they differ in what they think would be best, is, I think, at least a much more serious thing than has been allowed in this description of this case.

No-one in such cases can truly presume to speak for a young child unable to express his or her own wishes, but there is a lot of reason to argue that it should be the right of the mother to decide what is in the best interests of her child, not that it should be decided by a detached legal process.

That is dehumanising, as it sets aside the reality of family relationship which is so fundamental to humanity. Human life is determined by its relationships, not by purely abstract processes of thought. We grow and learn our humanity in a family context, shown what to do and how to relate by our parents: whether we choose to follow their values or a different set when we become adults, we continue to stand in a unique relationship to those values and decisions taught and made by family.

My rejection of the religious position I grew up with remains a defining part of the way in which my current world view works; it remains part of my identity and personality.  Without my childhood development within a family, with parents speaking to and for me, teaching me by making me part of their world and their relationships, I would not have gained the capacity to make the independent choices of an adult.  Children completely deprived of functioning personal relationships in childhood do not become exceptionally independent thinkers as adults, but are left with a tragic lack of necessary development.  Being an infant and a child dependent on parental care and decision (or that of others taking the same role in their absence) is an essential part of growing into a functioning adult human being. 

Our initial dependency as children on the decision, care, and help of parents is therefore just as much a legitimate way of being human as the personal consent and independence of adults is, and this dependency is worthy of an equal level of legal protection.

For third parties to overturn this part of the relationship between a young child and their parent/s within an obviously functioning family is to refuse legal protection to one of the most fundamental parts of our human growth and identity.

I repeat, I agree that the medical judgement is probably objectively correct, but I think we are very wrong to go against the mother’s wishes specifically on the grounds of what the doctors or the judge think is in the best interests of the child.

That is a usurpation, however well intended, of the child’s proper relationship with her mother.

Cherry Foster

 

References to the statements cited from Mill and Aquinas can be given to anyone who would like them…

I initially intended to include a discussion on, “Letting die vs Not striving officiously to keep alive,” in favour of thinking in terms of the latter, but I shall save that for a later post.

Incidentally, if anyone would retort to this that to be consistent I would have to defend the right of parents to abortion or active euthanasia for their children if the parents thought it was in the child’s best interests, I would retort that directing violence against a person with the intention of ending their life is not something that can ever be claimed to be in their best interests, and would therefore automatically come into my category of abuse/neglect.  That a child has a place in its wider national or legal community as well, thus meaning they have the right to be protected from attack even from their parents, is not at all the same as the notion that the representatives of the nation can override the decisions of a functional parent as to what is in the child’s best interest.

I do not, however much I have come to have strong views on this type of matter, wish to pretend that any of these issues is simple, or has an easy or obvious answer…

Posting the Elephant for Wheelchair User Awareness

Designed for displaying on the side of a wheelchair…

Elephant wheelchair awareness poster

Cherry Foster

See also my former post on the difficulty of guessing what is appropriate in any particular case.

I have a disability. I OPPOSE continuing lockdown.

Wanting lockdown to continue is not the universal wish of people with disabilities – but please go on being careful

Actually, my title is slightly inaccurate.  I don’t think lockdown ever should have been imposed in the first place, as opposed to strategies of focused protection.

This post is written in response to the fact that several friends in the last few days have mentioned that there is a group of people with disabilities – whether a coherent group or not I am unclear – who are making a thing of wanting lockdown to continue.  I am actually slightly surprised because where I have been talking to medical professionals and so on, they say that they are hearing what I say (that is, that lockdown policies have involved our interests and needs as people with disabilities being discarded in the most extraordinary way) from a lot of people.

It is necessary to clarify that when I say I oppose lockdown, what I mean is that I oppose the extremer measures, particularly those that are contrary to the normal principles on which our society is run or would normally be regarded matters of human rights.  For instance, the extending of health and safety rules in the workplace to include a lot of infection precautions is simply an extension of already understood principles to cover a new danger and is completely appropriate.  I am completely in favour of that.  On the other hand, forbidding parents to visit their adult children who live in the next town is not something with which our society generally considers legal interference to be legitimate, and in general, I would consider it a measure that can only be adopted for a very strict time limit – I have tended to advocate two weeks maximum* – after which, regardless of the consequences, I think it must be allowed if people choose to do it.  Most of what I consider legitimate and illegitimate is taken on a case by case basis by comparison with other principles.  Education, freedom to worship, freedom to protest, ordinary liberty of movement, and freedom to marry are all human rights issues, and the apparent abandonment of them as such is extremely worrying.  The whole point of human rights is that they are things due to each person that cannot be taken away from that person for the sake of a perceived common good, or the perceived welfare of another: they are the necessary check, in a democracy, against it becoming merely the tyranny of the majority.

I am also very far from suggesting that people should be careless about infection control.  One of my most fundamental principles is a division between law and morality: that is, that right use of our freedom is extremely important, but the mere fact that something is right does not justify someone else in trying to enforcing someone else’s doing it.  Religious and sexual freedom both rely on this principle.  I insist on freedom to worship – allowing various complexities – but I would have actually gone to church even in the worst of the epidemic not on the grounds of my right to do so, but because I believe that witnessing to Christ who is the Life over which death has no power is actually the greatest service I could have done my neighbour.

With regard to the rather different angle of the personal side of this as I have experienced it as a disabled person: having lockdown at all, let alone keeping it in place now, has not been in my interests or those of many others with similar difficulties or health problems.  My health and welfare have been destroyed by the restrictions – because I have been forbidden the freedom to deal with my strong tendency to depression, and deprived of almost all my emotional support.

Moreover, though I cannot possibly know, it would not surprise me in the slightest if in ten years’ time, there is a general consensus that lockdown restrictions cost more lives than the virus.  The fact that what will actually happen must always stand in considerable doubt is an argument for saying that human rights and at least some respect for civil liberties should stand above supposed consequences.  All along, it has been my continuous concern that at exactly this point, exactly as the vaccine began to put us in a position where lockdown was rendered positively ridiculous in practical terms (as opposed to extremely worrying in human rights’/civil liberties’ terms), a new and much more dangerous strain would appear, from which people were not protected by the existing vaccines, and thus put the whole thing back where we started 15 months ago.  (If we are really going to stay in lockdown due to the fear of new strains developing, then I would have thought that we should expect to still be in lockdown in eighty years’ time!).  I do not advocate ignoring pandemics, but I do also believe in much more of a “we need to find ways of living with this” approach: “keep calm, wash your hands, and carry on,” perhaps.

As a disabled person, I live with pain and debility on a continuous basis, as well as being at higher risk of accidents, and I have never considered that shutting myself away or opting out of life or activity due to the struggle or the risk could be a right option, even though it is also necessary to be practical and realistic as to the real limitations.  Others must make their own choice on this sort of point when it is their danger and their sickness, but it is not of their choice, but the wish to deprive me of mine by force of law, that I am currently speaking.

As a disabled person, I have actually found myself becoming very bitter and cynical about the way in which I feel I have been discarded by the nation.  People like myself, vulnerable to restrictions but not to COVID, have seemed to be either expendable or invisible.  To find people, even at this point, shouting that lockdown should carry on in order to protect vulnerable people, just fills me with horror.

Part of the issue is undoubtedly a need for more categories.  I think that an interest-group of “people with disabilities/long term health conditions” that has previously usually had a lot of similar interests has suddenly divided into roughly two groups with totally opposing political interests: those who are extra vulnerable to the disease or its effects, and those who are extra vulnerable to the health effects of the restrictions.  When this type of shift happens, that one side of the divide should suddenly become lost from the picture – to the point where a lot of people seem not even to be aware of the existence of that side of it – is not at all surprising.  However, it is something that should change: I am keen on making people more aware of the other side of the COVID restrictions disability thing (the other side being defined here as those of us for whom it has been an unbelievable disaster – we have gained nothing and lost everything – health and well-being included).

In the same manner as I consider the legitimacy of other restrictions in terms of whether they match our normal approach to the regulation of the things in question extended to meet a new circumstance, my rule for what can be asked of others for the vulnerable to COVID is that it should be exactly the same as what can be asked for someone with any other disability or health condition in any other circumstance: that is, reasonable adjustment as it is defined by the disability discrimination act.

What would be considered a reasonable adjustment or support for a wheelchair user, for a visually impaired person, for someone with anaphylaxis issues, for a deaf person, for a person with autism, for someone with harlequin ichthyosis, is reasonable adjustment for someone vulnerable to COVID-19.  What would not be isn’t.

One of the implications of this is that, while applying this principle means that lockdown should never have been a viable policy in the first place – – no-one would have dreamed of considering anything approaching those sorts of restrictions reasonable under the DDA – it also means that what would count as reasonable adjustments continue to be reasonable even after lockdown stops.  Hand washing unless you have bad skin conditions, standing at a distance from people in queues and similar circumstances, putting on a mask if you can and someone asks you to and there isn’t anyone else it will cause a problem (lip-reading or need for facial expressions), allowing working from home in the absence of a very sound reason why not, respecting and assisting the shielding of those who wish to shield (I utterly oppose trying to enforce shielding: the duty to assist is not the right to take control) – these things all seem to me to be within the bounds of reasonable adjustment.  If someone with immune problems asked to work from home in the worst of the winter flu season, their request should be treated exactly the same.

I – a person with a significant disability – think lockdown (as opposed to focused protection etc.) should not have happened, and think that what remains of the restrictions that are contrary to our normal principles of legal enforcement should be abolished tomorrow, along with the powers the government gave itself to put them in place.  And I would ask people to realise that if this has been done for some of the vulnerable, it has been done by utterly sacrificing another subsection of vulnerable people.  Moreover, the lives and welfare of people who are not vulnerable matter too: they are people: it is not right to take the attitude that they exist merely to be used as beasts of burden for those of us who have extra difficulties.  But in the same breath as saying these things, I would plead with people not to stop being careful, not to stop offering respect and consideration and assistance to anyone who remains vulnerable to infection with COVID.

Cherry Foster

*This is not an arbitrary length of time: it is based on the belief that this was the length of time it was permitted to detain people without charge in the terrorist problems in Northern Ireland.  Of course, that type of precedent can be regarded as fluid in that it could be argued that it should not have been/be (not sure which).  But looking for consistency with regard to what we would think legitimate in other circumstances does seem to me to be a good policy here.  Liberty is a very difficult one when it comes to human rights, because though imprisoning someone for life without trial would be regarded as definitely contrary to human rights by anyone who accepted the concept, it is hard to define the boundaries of exactly at what point and in what circumstances restrictions on liberty become a human rights issue.

I’d suggest, however, that if the dictator of a “tinpot banana republic” had placed a political opponent indefinitely under the restrictions of the first lockdown (where you could leave your house for four reasons – once a day for exercise, for medical reasons, for work if utterly necessary, and to assist a vulnerable person) on the grounds of public peace and wellbeing – “to save lives” – a lot of people in the UK probably would protest that it was a violation of human rights and that said person should be released from said restrictions immediately.

The Cross-Country Run

What it is like having an undiagnosed chronic condition/invisible disability

The class set off eagerly along the forest track, t-shirts and shorts flapping, trainers crunching on the gravel, carrying their picnic lunches in lightweight rucksacks on their backs.  The spring day was crisp and cool, ideal weather for a long run.

In the middle of the pack, often pressing towards the front at first, ran a boy in a green t-shirt.  He laughed and joked, conversing easily with the others.

As the miles went on, he gradually fell towards the back.

“Hey, you sulking, mate?” asked one of his friends.

“No,” he panted, “I’m just out of breath.”

“You can’t be out of breath,” said one of the girls, “I’m asthmatic, and I’m not even out of breath.”

He made no reply, but laboured on, falling more and more behind.  For a while, some of his friends stayed with him, but more and more they got fed up.

“Put some effort in,” they told him, “None of us are having any trouble.”

He made a sulky reply, frustrated by his own lack of capacity, and eventually they left him to run alone and ran on together.

The teacher, following along the track with the minibus, found him sitting on the grassy bank a few miles away from their picnic place.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.  “Have you hurt yourself?”

“No,” he faltered out, “It was just too much.  I couldn’t do it.”

She was furious.

“It’s always you who won’t try.  It’s always you who makes the excuses and seem to think you’re somehow special and don’t have to bother.”

“I don’t,” protested the boy, almost in tears, “I just couldn’t.”

“Yes, you ‘just couldn’t’ while all the others did it without the slightest fuss?  I’m ashamed of you.  This has got to stop, understand?  You deserve to be made to run the rest of the way, but the others don’t deserve to be kept waiting for their lunches.  But one more time – and you will be in serious trouble.  Have you got that?  Give me your lunch.  Get in the van.”

She reached out her hand to lift his rucksack into the minibus.  And then stopped.  And flipped open the catches, and slipped the drawstring toggle, and looked inside.

Instead of the sandwiches the rest of the class were carrying, it was full to the brim with rocks.

Cherry Foster

Immanence and economy

Icon of the Trinity source wikimedia commons photo credit unknown public domain
Andrei Rublev’s Icon of The Trinity, seen in the visit of the Angels to Abraham. Given the history of development, the figures are probably intended to be Christ in the centre, the Father on the left, and the Spirit on the right. The subject seems to include the eternal conversation of the Trinity on Redemption – the Father sending the Son as Abraham’s descendant, the Son making the offering, and praying the Spirit be sent, the Father indicating the Spirit to go and the Spirit assenting to this. The viewer is also placed in terrifying intimacy on the wrong side of the altar. (I recommend Gabriel Bunge’s work on the subject). Photo source: Wikimedia Commons; Photo Credit: unknown.

“My God, My God, O why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

And it is God that speaks and God that hears,

He Whom before the worlds began was free

Is bound in human death and lost in human tears.

He was with God when o’er the waters’ troubled face

The Spirit moved within the formless void,

And He it was that gave Creation’s grace,

That light and life and love be shared and be enjoyed.

God’s Word come forth, Incarnate in the Spirit’s power,

God’s Word made flesh, in woman’s womb concealed,

Eternity to Him was not an hour,

And yet in suffering’s endless hour He stands revealed.

O power of God!  That God Himself should anguished die.

O strange extreme!  Where Life and death contend.

O slain Lamb! Thou Creation’s Life’s supply,

Thou livest that died – the Spirit’s fire Thy reign commend.

“To Thee commend Myself,” God speaks the psalmist’s plea,

“It is accomplished,” and the victory stands:

From eternity to eternity,

The Word of God, the Word with God, has wounded hands.

Cherry Foster